Actor Anthony Rapp began testifying today in his sexual misconduct lawsuit against Kevin Spacey, with initial questioning covering only his upbringing in the Chicago suburbs before the court took a lunch recess.
Rapp’s testimony after lunch is expected to explore much more explosive territory, with the actor having accused Spacey of fondling him and trapping him inside a New York apartment in 1986, when Rapp was 14 years old. After going public with his claims in October 2017, Rapp filed his $40 million suit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. Spacey is also expected to testify in his own defense. Rapp, the younger brother of playwright and producer Adam Rapp, is a longtime presence on Broadway who starred in Rent and more recently appeared on Star Trek: Discovery.
The allegations by Rapp were among several that made Spacey one of the #MeToo movement’s early figures of ignominy, though the legal process is still taking its course. He faces trial in the UK for alleged sexual assault, with that case set for June 2023 and he is on the hook for $31 million awarded to House of Cards producers Media Rights Capital because the claims hastened the end of the show and were deemed a breach of his acting and producing agreements.
Spacey is expected to testify in his own defense in the NYC trial.
Judge Lewis A. Kaplan has run a tight ship since the trial started yesterday, repeatedly urging attorneys from both sides to skip extraneous or duplicative material. He also interrupted one witness, Christopher Denny, as he was trying to elaborate on an answer. “It isn’t an essay question,” the judge scolded him, urging instead to stick to “yes” or “no.”
Rapp detailed a working-class childhood in Joliet, IL, where he was raised solely by his mother, a nurse who divorced his father when Rapp was 2. He described with a nostalgic smile spending time with his friends, a “crew of weirdo nerds” who played Dungeons & Dragons and created their own magazines. He began acting in plays and musicals in the seventh grade, playing the lead in a production of Oliver.
Three witnesses were featured in the morning proceedings before Rapp took the stand. Among them was Andy Holtzman, who described an alleged assault by Spacey in 1981, which occurred when Holtzman was working for the Public Theatre’s film program and Spacey was acting in the Public-backed summer production of Shakespeare’s Henry the IV Part I.
Holtzman repeated allegations he first made in 2017, in a Facebook message visible to his connections on the social network. He claimed that Spacey entered an office where Holtzman was working and approached him without saying a word. Wearing “very tight jeans,” he had a “clear, large erection,” Holtzman said. Spacey then “lifted me up by my crotch,” set him on a desk and rubbed his body against Holtzman’s.
With Judge Kaplan sustaining many of the defense team’s objections, lawyers for Spacey sought to poke holes in Holtzman’s account, including his claim that he immediately recognized the actor from program materials. Given he was a struggling, unknown actor in 1981, the defense noted, that was unlikely. When shown pages from the summer 1981 program for Henry IV, Holtzman conceded Spacey’s picture was not included.
Spacey’s side also asked Holtzman why he hadn’t made his allegations public in 1981, especially given his testimony that Public Theatre chief Joseph Papp, a titan of New York culture and society, treated him like a son. “I kept it very much to myself for a long time, trying to process it,” Holtzman explained. “As Spacey’s star rose, it kept coming back to my face,” with the earthquake of the #MeToo movement providing further encouragement to finally make his account known.
Dominic Patten contributed to this report.